The other day my mom told me that George Will had written a column about why we should get out of Afghanistan. I couldn't do more than glance at it. I love George Will and respect his opinion, and so I can't bear to read his reasons why my husband is wasting his time right now and why my family is suffering for nothing.
I guess with the recent 9-11 anniversary, the whole issue is on the minds of many.
The ever wonderful Minnesota Mom emails me:
Love to you all. I am offering up my Mass today for your family. How is Bill doing? I just read that there was another outbreak in Afghanistan which made me wonder, why are we there? Forgive the dumb question, but really? Do they want us there? Are we winning?
I know you'll have an opinion.
First of all, I know there are many of you who are praying for my husband and me and my family. I thank you all. It helps us, truly.
Secondly, Margaret knows me well. I almost always have an opinion. I have a vague recollection of not having an opinion once. It's not a common experience.
So I respond:
Why are we there? Are we winning hearts and minds? Are we making a difference? Should we make a difference? Should we care about these people a world away? Do they want us there? Should we stay or should we go?
I can't answer all of these with any political correctness.
And I don't know how other wives or mothers feel. I speak only for myself.
We have a poor country whose only hope for survival is to grow poppies and sell them to the world to support its drug habit. We have a country with a government too weak to keep out corruption or evil influences that would use the land to harbor, train and support terrorists and their structure. We have a country that went backwards in development and made educated women quit their professional jobs to wear burkas against their will and stay at home.
From a social justice standpoint, is it not the obligation of the strong to help and defend the weak? Are the rich not to help the poor? Do we stop ministering to the downtrodden because THEY have lost hope? Is it not possible to teach people how to better their lives, and at the very least make a difference in one person's life for one day? To fill a hungry belly for just today, to put shoes on one child's feet, to show them the promise of the future by embodying all that is good in the world for one day?
Why Afghanistan? Well, from there arose the center of attacks against the US. If we leave, they will simply reestablish their bases. The Taliban is still there. They are fighting and waiting for us to go. They won't stop until they are decimated. That, unfortunately, means death, for us and for them and for civilians who harbor them and for civilians who are in the wrong place at the wrong time. War is awful. Better our soldiers (less than 600, I believe, since 2001 - most of the soldiers have died in Iraq, not Afghanistan, although that is changing**) than our civilians.
From there is the supply of most of the world's opium. Drug use is a serious problem in this country and in others. Drug addiction destroys people, lives and families. We can and should fight a two-front war: prevent drug use by educating people and prevent drug use by making the supply scarce and expensive.
Do they want us there? It depends. If you like making easy money from poppies, NO. If you like the Taliban, NO. If you fear the Taliban and know that if you are friendly to US Troops they will kill you and your family, then it may be difficult to welcome US involvement.
What should we do? I don't know. We can't save the whole world, and certainly not all at once. I am glad I do not have to make these decisions.
All I know is this: if 5 or 10 or 20 or 40 years from now, Afghanistan is a better place due to our involvement, then I will believe that my husband's sacrifice (whether that is simply missing his family for 6 months or if it ultimately takes a limb or his life) and my family's suffering will not have been in vain. If we walk away, and Afghanistan goes back to the way it was in 2001, then this was all for nothing. The 600 dead, lost for no good reason. My children's pain at having no father, even if temporary, will be for naught. We would have done better to have simply dropped a few bombs a la Bill Clinton and left it at that.
We have had no more attacks on our soil because we have been keeping them engaged elsewhere. Where should we fight them? Afghanistan? Iraq? New York City? Or should we let them win? Do you want your daughters or granddaughters wearing burkas? Would you like your children or your grandchildren to see the cathedrals of Europe? Would you like to see the cathedral of Notre Dame turned into a mosque? Europe is the frontline for the cultural battles and they are seeing a fair number of deadly attacks on civilians as well. If Europe collapses, then the new frontline is HERE. We won't leave our country a better place for future generations if we can not respond to this fight now. We may not think this is a holy war...but they do.
So that's my two cents.
I like to bounce my thoughts off my husband because he usually provides a different angle on issues and helps me hone or alter my opinion. Unfortunately, I don't have that option right now, so these thoughts, which he will read long after most of you, are unshaped by his experiences and opinions.
At the conclusion of my rant, I asked Margaret if I just shouldn't turn the email into a blog, and she thought yes, because she would like to hear other people's thoughts. So, let us know how you feel. Should we stay or should we go?
** As of September 10th, there have been 746 deaths in Afghanistan and 4,343 related to Iraq.